Every year on Easter Sunday, the Cartajima villagers are eager to see who will be the subject of the Judas doll.
The Judas doll is just one part of the complex Easter tradition but perhaps the most explosive as those guests of Los Castanos who were brave enough to withstand the noise and joie de vivre of Easter in Cartajima, would attest.
The village men spend all Saturday night dragging foliage up to the village square in preparation for dressing Calle Ancha – “the wide street” – for the denouement that takes place at Sunday midday. The women build a bower with the foliage at one end of the street. The men’s penultimate task is to bring the “chopo” – the highest tree they can find, which is placed in a specially designated hole at the other end of the street. Clear male and female symbolism for this festival which is essentially all about rebirth of the “sun”, spring and fertility.
Before putting their exhausted bodies to bed for a few hours nap, the men perform one final task – they have to choose the subject (or is it object) of the Judas doll and then create it from bits and pieces they find in their pockets and lying around. Packing the Judas with dynamite is the easy bit.
The first year I was here was 2003 and the Judas was Osama bin Laden. The second year the Judas-makers were unable to decide between George Bush and Saddam Hussein. Another year it was David Beckham which surprised me and I had to make inquiries. They said that he had been in the news after having an affair with a Spanish girl.
And so it went on year after year and I have come to understand that the personage selected to be the Judas is not necessarily an object of hatred or ridicule but simply newsworthy.
This Easter it was therefore no surprise to find, when we walked down to Calle Ancha on Easter morning before the ceremony got under way, that the Judas was a Pitufo or Smurf. These small creatures have taken up residence in the next village, Juzcar, four kilometres down the lane. They (or Sony Pictures on their behalf) painted all the houses Smurf blue and every mushroom is occupied.
And are the butt of many a Cartajima joke including being the Judas this year.
The sign around the neck of the Judas translates roughly as “we are sick and tired of Smurfs”.
I find it comical that, in the early hours of Easter Sunday, the men went to the entrance of the village and requisitioned the Juzcar road sign to adorn their 2012 creation.
After the Virgin and the Son were reunited, thus ensuring a good growing season, the Judas was dowsed with gasoline and set afire. The rockets implanted in it screamed, banged and exploded for an anxious few minutes while the villagers and visitors were kept well at bay, crouching in alleys and huddling behind the orange trees that line Calle Ancha.
An intriguing postscript to this event is that last summer a group of local boys got into big big trouble with the Guardia Civil and their parents and the whole world because they moved traffic cones across the junction at the end of the village. A prank that I thought funny but the rest of the world took extremely seriously. But grown men (including Mr Mayor Sir) stealing a roadsign (also find very funny and innovative) attracts no attention from the authorities – which is OK – but I don’t think they should have been so hard on the youngsters.